FAMILY DINNER, VOL. 2
Much deserving of their Big Dog status, Snarky Puppy—the prolific instrumental juggernaut led by composer/bassist Michael League—returns with two first-rate recordings. Culcha Vulcha finds League’s rotation of 20 musicians in a South Texas studio breaking their live-ensemble-recording tradition to take advantage of overdubbing and sonic crafting. The result is a darker, more nuanced sound. “Semente” captures the Tex-Mex surroundings with cinematic, contrapuntally charged themes both bold and whispered, while “Gemini” is a deliciously murky meeting of sonic and instrumental orchestration navigating shifting tonalities. Down low, League leads “GØ” with his hammered boogaloo, launches “Grown Folks” via multiple bass tracks, and mines Rocco terrain on “Jeffe.”
Family Dinner, Vol. 2 sequels Puppy’s Grammywinning vocal collaboration, Vol. 1, in featuring the unit’s equally impressive side that provides heady groove support and augmented arrangements for singer/songwriters—here ranging from up-andcomers Becca Stevens and Laura Mvula to vets David Crosby and Salif Keita. Showstoppers include “Don’t You Know,” a modern-day “Compared to What” by vocalist/pianist Jacob Collier (with League and sousaphonist Big Ed Lee doubling the syncopated bottom) and an electronica-meets-big-band reading of Knower’s “I Remember,” with Louis Cole on drums while League and Cory Henry cop Cole’s frantic Knower synth-bass style.
The latest album by young New York-based doubler Varela shows he can swing with the best of them, as exhibited on the opening track, “I Should Care.” Varela’s solo at the halfway point bursts with harmony, as he speeds his way up and down the fingerboard with precision. While the album as a whole is a melting pot of styles and vibes, it all merges together perfectly, thanks to Varela’s vibrant upright work.
This five-track EP, released less than two weeks before Bernie Worrell passed away in June 2016, features the beloved Parliament–Funkadelic magus in full space-travel mode alongside frequent collaborator Bill Laswell and DJ/producer Karsh Kale on drums. If you know Laswell only for his dub and avant-garde excursions, you’ll revel in his tasty, rock-solid approach on tunes like “Flashlight—Redux,” an update of Worrell’s signature line that manages to be new and now without losing an iota of its classic power. Elsewhere, Worrell’s freaky excursions are so perfectly paired with Kale’s speaker-slammin’ beats and Laswell’s takeno-prisoners ostinatos, one regrets that this trio will never hit the road.
GONE IS GONE
GONE IS GONE
On this debut of Mastodon’s Troy Sanders collabo with At The Drive-In drummer Tony Hajjar and guitarists Troy Van Leeuwen (QOTSA) and Mike Zarin, Sanders’ role is mighty indeed: He takes on much of the vocal duties, provides distorted, growling low end, and on their progressively heavy and alternative sound, displays a prowess as a songwriter outside of his comfort zone.
FUNCTIONAL HARMONIC CONCEPTS
This 120-page PDF by London-based educator/session player/artist Joe Hubbard, the latest addition to a small but vibrant bookshelf of harmony books for bassists, starts off with triads and inversions before ascending lofty heights of secondary dominants, tritone and diminished ii-V substitutions, interpolated ii chords, and extended ii-V patterns. Along the way, Hubbard offers clear explanations, plenty of examples and exercises (all with tab), a handful of crucial ear-training mp3’s, daily practice nuggets, charts for 15 standards, and homework that’ll help you lock in the concepts before moving on. As you might expect, there are more than a few gnarly paragraphs that might take a couple readings to grok. Hang with it, though, and the creative possibilities will slowly take shape as you discover a world of ear-tickling options and unexpected colors—right along with the development of new ear, eye, and finger muscles.
RON CARTER & HOUSTON PERSON
Bass legend Ron Carter and tenor saxophonist Houston Person couldn’t have chosen a more apt title for their fourth studio collaboration as a duo. Lacking nothing by the absence of piano and drums, Carter and Person find the perfect balance of filling space and respecting it, as each track features rhythmic lines and melodic phrasings expertly woven together. There’s nothing quite like hearing two veteran jazzmen conversing through their instruments as this duo does.